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Can Medications for Depression and Anxiety Affect Fertility?

Can Medications for Depression and Anxiety Affect Fertility?

Depression & AnxietyAnyone who has ever struggled with infertility knows what a painful and challenging road it can be. The process becomes a roller coaster of emotions, often inducing symptoms of depression and anxiety for those who feel overwhelmed by the roadblocks to conception. When there is a history of depression and anxiety, even when those issues have previously been controlled through the use of medications, symptoms can sometimes become even worse. The irony is that infertility and depression have long been linked, making this a chicken and egg conundrum – did the depression come first, leading to the infertility, or was it the other way around?

Sometimes things become so bad, that it feels as though there is no other way to cope than by accepting the depression or anxiety medications your doctor may be offering. When a true chemical imbalance exists, this may also be the safest option for ensuring your continued mental health. But how will those medications affect your ability to conceive moving forward?

For Men

Serotonin is a natural neurotransmitter found in the body, connected with mood regulation. Some of the most popular medications for treating anxiety and depression are Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) which help by changing the balance of serotonin in the brain. Unfortunately, for men, SSRIs also seem to have a negative effect on fertility. Not only can they lead to erectile dysfunction and issues with ejaculation, but studies have also shown they are connected to abnormal sperm production in as many as 50 percent of the men taking these drugs. The good news is that when SSRIs are discontinued, it seems to take only a month for most men to return to normal sexual functioning, once again producing healthy sperm. Other treatments for depression and anxiety do not appear to negatively affect male fertility quite so drastically.

For Women

Serotonin is actually present in the reproductive organs of women, and some studies have suggested that maintaining appropriate levels of serotonin in a woman’s body can promote healthy oocyte maturation. This might explain why women experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety also seem to suffer from a heightened level of infertility. Given that information, it seems there may be some benefits to taking SSRIs for women battling infertility and depression at the same time.

What science has not yet been able to tell us, however, is whether these drugs may have any negative impact on fertility. What we do know is that there are some risks to be aware of when it comes to taking antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications during pregnancy. These can include increased risks for miscarriage, birth defects, and preterm birth. Most psychiatric and ob-gyn experts agree that for women suffering from mild symptoms of depression and anxiety who have been symptom-free for at least six months, stopping the use of depression or anxiety medications during pregnancy may be the safest option. This may be something you want to consider while contemplating the use of these same medications for depression and anxiety during your pregnancy attempts.

Making a Choice

There is no clear-cut answer when it comes to deciding whether or not to utilize depression or anxiety medications while trying to conceive. Discuss the potential risks with your doctor and make the choice that is safest for you in your situation. For those who have experienced more severe symptoms of depression and anxiety, the importance of maintaining your mental health should always be taken into consideration. Battling infertility and depression may heighten the need for treating with medication in some situations. Remember that you cannot be a good advocate and caretaker for your child if your mental health is not being adequately managed.

Natural Options

Should you and your doctor decide that your symptoms of depression and anxiety can be treated without the use of medications; there are a few natural treatment options for you to consider. Talk therapy can sometimes be beneficial for those suffering from mental health issues and exercise is a fantastic way to boost endorphins and naturally improve your mood. Yoga has been shown to be greatly effective at reducing stress and getting outside regularly will ensure you maintain necessary levels of Vitamin D for proper mood functioning. It is also important to take appropriate care of yourself, eating healthy, getting enough sleep and turning your focus towards activities that you enjoy and the people you love.

Should you begin to feel as though these natural options are not working and you are struggling to keep your head above water mentally, go back to your doctor and further discuss the treatment possibilities available to you. Maintaining your mental health should always be a top priority. If doing that on your own is not working, there is no shame in admitting you need further help.


Dr. Christine Traxler M.D., OB/GYN
Dr. Christine Traxler M.D., OB/GYN

Dr. Traxler is a University-trained obstetrician/gynecologist, working with patients in Minnesota for over 20 years. She is a professional medical writer; having authored multiple books on pregnancy and childbirth; textbooks and coursework for medical students and other healthcare providers; and has written over 1000 articles on medical, health, and wellness topics.  Dr. Traxler attended the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences and University of Minnesota Medical School,  earning a degree in biochemistry with summa cum laude honors in 1981,  and receiving her Medical Doctorate degree (MD) in 1986.

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